A new crowdsourcing initiative has quantified 10,000 years of land use across the globe.
More than 250 archaeologists from around the world contributed their knowledge to ArchaeoGLOBE to better understand how the land was used at different moments in time.
The project was the brainchild of Lucas Stephens when he was a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. He noted there were records going back to the 19th century, but not much before then.
The information does exist, but just with individual scientists. Until ArchaeoGLOBE there was no central source of information that stretches back further in time.
To create the crowdsourced database Stephens and colleagues sent an initial survey to nearly 1,400 archeologists around the world. Scientists could contribute to as many of the 146 regions as they felt qualified to.
The end result includes more than 700 entries from 255 archeologists. For each location, researchers rated the prevalence of land-use types such as hunting and gathering, agriculture and pasturing herd animals. The information covers ten periods between 1850 CE and 10,000 years ago when modern agriculture began.
“This was an attempt to roughly quantify the amount of land being used across the globe for different productive uses for the past 10,000 years,” Stephens told Penn Today. “This is the first time something like this has been attempted.”
Among the findings are that in South Asia and parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, intensive agriculture started thousands of years earlier than previously thought.
For more information about the crowdsourced database's discoveries read the preliminary analysis in the journal Science.